Breslin started the lecture with showing the economic rise of China in comparison to United States and Japan. He asked the audience, why is China such a largely discussed as an important country in the world order but not Japan, if Japan after all is also ranked high in the list?
He discussed at length the current narrative of China and its´signalling function and how the message is received in other countries. As an example he gave the Belt and Road Initiative. It has been China´s intention to make it well known and widely discussed, and this aim has been achieved.
Breslin argued that there are two narratives of China, a glorious vision of the future and a coming economic crisis. The presentation also discussed the notion of China´s “unique uniqueness” and how research on China needs analysis across several fields of study, from areas studies through foreign policy analysis to the world order.
The neglecting of domestic politics was also raised as a problem. China´s foreign politics is heavily linked to its domestic politics. Therefore the division of these two is not practical. The audiences for China narrative is not only the foreign audiences but also the domestic ones.
The commentator of the lecture was Senior research fellow Jyrki Kallio from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Dr Kallio largely agreed with the main thrust of Breslin´s assessment. However, he presented a minor correction to Breslin´s table of the different fields of study where China research is done, by saying that China studies should be the basis for all other fields of study when researching China.
From the audience, several interesting questions were asked, e.g. about China´s environmental policies, the possibility of a pending economic collapse and the new TV-channel that China will soon open in London. There are no clear answers to many of the questions, which perhaps is inevitable when it´s about China. Or not, if China is not a “unique” case after all.